Citrus Chicken Quinoa Salad

A hearty, healthy salad recipe with creamy avocado, nutty quinoa, chicken, fresh cilantro, and lots of bright citrus flavors. The perfect light dinner or easy lunch!

Ladies and gents (do any guys read my blog?), I bring you my new favorite meal. It’s protein packed, bursting with flavor, bright citrus, fresh cilantro, a little spice, a lot of avocado, and some serious staying power.

I made this colorful salad as a light dinner on Monday night and enjoyed leftovers for lunch the next day; it kept me full for hours as I worked in the kitchen. I made two pies, one of these and a special one for Father’s Day. Stay tuned for that sweet summer recipe.

citrus chicken quinoa salad in a white bowl

citrus chicken quinoa salad in a white bowl

This satisfying bowl of healthy goodness has so much going on. So many flavors and textures; each bite you get a little something different! It’s the perfect recipe for those of us who like the “stuff” in salads, rather than the lettuce. Are you like that too? There’s no lettuce in this salad at all, by the way.

Hearty, super-healthy quinoa is the base for todays salad recipe. I love quinoa because it is impressively versatile. When I’m not adding it to salads, I love making crispy quinoa patties. Just had those for dinner last week – they’re so simple and make a ton of leftovers.

You’ll need about 1.5 cups of cooked quinoa. Quinoa is so simple to prepare. And if you’ve never cooked it before, don’t get nervous. I have a step-by-step post on how to cook quinoa for you. There’s hardly any work involved.

2 images of ingredients for citrus chicken quinoa salad including quinoa in a saucepan and roasted garlic on a white cutting board

A lot of this salad’s flavor comes from the chicken. You’ll cook the chicken with roasted garlic and a little smoked paprika in some olive oil. If you don’t have smoked paprika, you may use regular or even a pinch of chile powder instead. I highly recommend the smoked paprika for optimum flavor, though.

Don’t know who to roast garlic? Again, don’t get nervous! I have an easy step-by-step post onย how toย roast garlic. Helpful tip: steer clear fromย using canned minced garlic here, you want the robust flavor from roasting it fresh.

Cook the cut up chicken breasts until the outsides are toasty and crisp and the centers are moist and tender. Here is what the chicken will look like:

chicken in a skillet

Toss the chicken in with the cooked quinoa, 1 sliced avocado, and 2 sliced oranges. For a little dressing, simply whisk together fresh lime juice, honey, olive oil, fresh cilantro, and a touch of juice from the sliced oranges. That’s it!

So many bright, fresh flavors with none of the artificial stuff.

citrus chicken quinoa salad in a red mixing bowl

This recipe made enough for Kevin and I to enjoy for dinner with a side of roasted veggies. Plus, there was enough leftover to enjoy for lunch the next day. I personally loved it cold!ย By the next day, the flavors were more pronounced as well – the quinoa had the chance to really soak everything up. And the more I stirred it, the creamier the avocado became. (YES.) Since it tastes so wonderful on day 2, it’s a great make-ahead meal option.

This citrus chicken quinoa salad is a wonderful, gluten free choice for your healthy eating this summer… or whenever you’re looking to lighten-up lunch or dinner. Feel free to add a little more quinoa or even try serving this healthy salad over greens.

And if you have extra veggies laying around in your crisper drawer, throw them in!

citrus chicken quinoa salad in a white bowl

Now how about some pie for dessert? Balance. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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citrus chicken quinoa salad in a white bowl

Citrus Chicken Quinoa Salad

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: serves 3
  • Category: Salads
  • Method: Cooking
  • Cuisine: American


A hearty, healthy salad recipe with creamy avocado, nutty quinoa, chicken, fresh cilantro, and lots of bright citrus flavors. The perfect light dinner or easy lunch!


  • 1 and 1/2 cups cooked quinoa
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound skinless boneless chicken breasts, chopped into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 cloves garlic or roasted garlic,ย finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoonย smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large oranges, peeled and segmented
  • 1 ripe avocado, peeled and cubed


  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro (packed)*
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh orange juice*
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon honey


  1. Cook quinoa according to package directions or use my directions – my recipe will make 2-3 cups, more than what you will use. But leftovers are great! Transfer cooked quinoa to a large bowl and let cool.
  2. Pour olive oil into a large skillet over medium heat. Add chicken and roasted garlic, stirring it all around to coat with oil. Sprinkle with smoked paprika and salt. Stir and cook until chicken is done, about 8 minutes. Add cooked chicken, oranges, and avocado to the quinoa. Stir to combine. Set aside.
  3. Make the dressing: Whisk all of the dressing ingredients together. Pour over salad and toss to coat everything evenly. Serve immediately. Leftovers keep well in the refrigerator for 4-5 days.


  1. Make Ahead Instructions: This is a perfect recipe to make ahead of time because the flavors taste amazing by day 2. Simply prepare through step 3, cover tightly, and refrigerate overnight.
  2. Cilantro: If you love cilantro as much as I do feel free to increase to 1/2 cup.
  3. Orange Juice: I simply squeezed the juice out of a couple pieces of the oranges I threw into the salad for the 1 Tablespoon needed in the dressing.

Keywords: citrus chicken quinoa salad, chicken quinoa salad


  1. Chloe @ foodlikecake says:

    This looks amazing!

  2. Laura @ Raise Your Garden says:

    Oh Sally, this looks delicious. Citrus! Yes please. Need some nutritious recipes now that bathing suit season is upon us!!!

    And to answer your question, “do any guys read my blog”, YES. My husband is the biggest Pinterest man out there. He loves it! I would get in so much trouble if he knew I said that so hopefully he doesn’t read the comment section on your blog, hehe.

    1. Hahahaha Laura I’m laughing so loud. Hope he doesn’t find the comments to read lol.

  3. Where’s the pie?! Way to hold out suspense!
    This looks great. Summertime is not the season for heavier chicken recipes. This one is perfect!

    1. I’ll be sharing the new pie recipe in a few days Mir! You will love it.

  4. Whoa. This looks crazy delicious!! I think I know what Iโ€™m making for lunch!!! pinned ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. This looks delicious. I keep meaning to try quinoa so when I finally get a packet this is the first thing I’m going to try =)

    1. Go for it, Laura! And then let me know how you like it. Enjoy!

  6. Gayle @ Pumpkin 'N Spice says:

    I love quinoa in salads, so amazing! Much better than plain ‘ole lettuce! ๐Ÿ™‚ This salad looks delicious…so perfect for the summer!

    1. Much tastier than lettuce if you ask me. ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks Gayle!

  7. Chelsea @ Gal on a Mission says:

    I love an amazing protein-packed quinoa salad, Sally! This one looks and sounds delicious.

    Hope you’re having a great week! ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. You too Chelsea!

  8. Olivia - Primavera Kitchen says:

    Wow Sally, that’s my type of dish. Love it so much. It totally has me craving for a big bowl now ๐Ÿ˜‰ have a great weekend!

  9. It looks delish!

  10. Oh I love salad! And quinoa especially is sooo good for you. I can’t wait to make this, thanks! ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. Averie @ Averie Cooks says:

    Love citrus in salads and I bet with the quinoa and spices this is so good!

  12. Oh yum! I can not wait to try this! I love that you are doing more smoothies and savory recipes. I am going to have to make this VERY soon. I love quinoa!

    1. Thanks MJ! Let me know how you like it.

  13. Jodee Weiland says:

    This looks so delicious and healthy! What a wonderful idea for a light summer meal…thanks for sharing!

  14. I have everything but quinoa handy. Think this would work okay with whole wheat couscous?

    1. I was wondering the same thing. Maybe some bulgur wheat, it has more prominent flavor than couscous.

    2. Definitely! Enjoy, Renee.

  15. Amy @ Thoroughly Nourished Life says:

    I made a quinoa salad for lunches this week too! I went heavy on the veggies and garlic in mine, but I’m keen to see what orange would be like paired with quinoa. I’ll swap chickpeas for the chicken and I bet this will keep me full at my desk for hours.
    Can’t wait to see what sort of pie you whipped up for Father’s Day!
    Happy baking ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Chickpeas would be amazing in this Amy! Hope you enjoy.

      1. Roasted chickpeas so you get even more varied textures!

  16. Wow this looks great! I made the crispy quinoa patties with my mom and they were delicious! This salad looks like a perfect way to use up some of the extra quinoa! Thanks! ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Hey Dana! Happy you enjoyed the crispy quinoa patties – give this salad a try next. So flavorful, just like the patties.

  17. LOOK YUMMY SALLY! love anything with quinoa and….. roasted garlic
    makes everything better. can’t wait to read your book waiting for it to be delivery

    1. Thanks Faith! Let me know any recipes you try from the book – and if you give this salad a go!

  18. Sally – that picture of the roasted garlic, lime, and paprika is GORGEOUS!! The salad sounds great, too!

    1. Thanks Alexa! I liked it too. For some reason, roasted garlic is very nice to shoot! Hope you try this salad sometime.

  19. Elizabeth @ Confessions of a Baking Queen says:

    I’ll take a bowl of this and the pie of course! I adore fruit in my salads and the oranges look delicious with the quinoa and avocados! This is what salads should always be like!

  20. Julia | says:

    What a lovely, light, refreshing salad! Will work great as a lunch to take to work!

    1. Agreed! Thanks Julia.

  21. Jessica @ Sweet Menu says:

    I’ve never had quinoa! But this is sure making me want to try!!

    1. Jessica, you must try it. It’s so good! And versatile.

  22. Mary @ The Kitchen Paper says:

    What a fabulous combination of flavors! I’m loving the citrus + spiced chicken + avocado… I’m pretty sure you can’t go wrong there! This looks great!

  23. You are a genius! Somehow you managed to incorporate all of my favorite things into one dish. Will be making this soon!

  24. Kelly @ Trial and Eater says:

    Love! I’ve been a little obsessed with quinoa salads lately, I love all the flavor options. Extra cilantro, totally!

    1. Yes, I’ve been making them all the time. Let me know if you give this a try Kelly!

  25. This looks fantastic! I’ve been obsessed with quinoa lately so I’ll definitely be trying this one!

  26. Kate @ Diethood says:

    #getinmybelly! This is the type of salad I eat at least 3 times a week. And lettuce is used only for decor – about 4 leaves on the bottom that serve as a bed for all the yumminess on top! ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. YES to the lettuce “decor” Kate. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Have a great weekend!

  27. Lindsay Ann @ Lindsay Ann Bakes says:

    Healthy, hearty and refreshing!! I must run to the market asap… I know what’s for dinner tonight ๐Ÿ˜‰ Love when the savory recipe sneak their way into SBA

    1. So glad you enjoy the savory recipes!

  28. Hey Sally, I am a guy reader and follower. I do all the cooking and baking in the house so I have used a bunch of your recipes with success (especially the banana fudge muffins). I would bet there are more men out there reading we just aren’t active commentors.

    1. Thanks Dave ๐Ÿ™‚ I appreciate you saying hi! Love those banana fudge muffins.

  29. This looks absolutely delish! Definitely going on my dinner menu for this coming week!

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Iโ€™m Sally, a cookbook author, photographer, and blogger. My goal is to give you the confidence and knowledge to cook and bake from scratch while providing quality recipes and plenty of pictures. Grab a cookie, take a seat, and have fun exploring! more about Sally